This is the last in a series of four articles originally posted in early 1990.
The NLP well-formedness conditions enable the changeworker to have a sense of direction, a goal to move towards. The seven categories make it possible to gather information in a structured way instead of talking in circles, and to pinpoint the place where a change can most effectively be made, the place where there the knot exists that keeps the client from getting what he wants.
After that, the task is to actually effect the desired change. Often one can use one of the many NLP hypnotic techniques. (Which is not to suggest that these techniques necessarily involve explicit hypnosis.) Other times, simply asking the right question at the right moment can be a very powerful intervention. (The most dramatic piece of changework done on me during my NLP training was done by asking a question. This question -- which had been very carefully chosen by the person working with me and which I choose not to reveal here -- totally disoriented me, and I started crying profusely and my way of looking at the world was never the same again.) One might also use redirection: the sort of one-liner that Leslie Cameron Bandler is so well known for.
Another type of intervention is to give the client an appropriate reference experience, either by helping the client create the experience in his imagination (which is essentially hypnosis), or by telling the client a story (``therapeutic metaphor'') which will give him the experience vicariously, or by ``tasking": sending the client out into the world with a homework assignment which will result in his having the requisite experience. Creating instructive experiences for clients in these three ways was Milton Erickson's specialty. One can also have the client go back into his past and go through past experiences over again but in a different way. Or one can change the significance he attaches to certain past experiences.
All my NLP teachers seemed to think it important to tell us that whatever intervention we used, the result would be to accomplish one or more of the following things: 1) Separate, 2) Combine, 3) Change sorting, 4) Adjust criteria, and 5) Add a new behavior. My teachers never gave much explanation about these five ``structural components of change,'' so what I will give here is largely my own interpretation.
1) Separate: The technique that first comes to mind under the heading of separation is VK Dissociation, now incorporated as the first half of the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure. The purpose of VK Dissociation is to separate the factual memory of a past traumatic experience from the emotions that were experienced at the time. To do this, one has the subject imagine watching a movie of himself going through the past experience (or confronting the object of a phobia). To keep him, the watcher of the movie, in a neutral emotional state, one can have him imagine floating up out of his body, or having circus music accompany the movie, or seeing the movie from the highway on a distant drive-in screen. (I did the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure with an acquaintance who had a history of abuse in her childhood. She was initially reluctant, because she said ``If I have to think about that now, I'll get upset and cry.'' A couple weeks afterwards I asked her to think about the incident in question again, and after a moment she said ``I still know what happened, but it's as if I read it in a book.'' A nice thing about the technique is that she never had to reveal the content of the incident to me.)
Another important instance of separating is the Separation of Behavior from Intent, sometimes called Separation of Behavior from Self. This is the basis of Six Step Reframing and beyond that is one of the fundamental principles of NLP. The idea is that instead of beating up on oneself for some self-destructive thing one keeps doing, one appreciates oneself for the positive intent behind this behavior, and then looks for a more positive behavior that will accomplish the same intent. It has been my experience that clients often cry during Six Step Reframing. I think this is a reponse to finally being loved, which is to say finally being able to love a part of themselves which they have been hating for so long.
No matter how much I may feel the need to change something about myself, I still want to be me. By separating the undesired (internal or external) behavior from myself, I can feel safe about going into therapy or changework: It's not me that has to be changed, it's just this thing that I do.
2) Combine: The most obvious example of combining is the old NLP technique called Anchor Collapsing where one forcefully brings together two contradictory internal states so that the more positive one overpowers the negative one. My NLP teachers spoke of Anchor Collapsing with something close to scorn but before I learned to be sophisticated enough to avoid such a 'simple-minded and clumsy' technique I used it with a good friend who was developing a phobia of being in large crowds of people. Later on, after I had done many more artful successful pieces of work with her, she told me that this anchor collapsing had probably been the one thing I had done that had the biggest impact on her life. Similarly, a very insecure and awkward fellow student did an anchor collapse on me which cured my fear of heights.
In NLP, one thinks in terms of resources. What resources would a client need in order to deal with his ``problem,'' and in what areas of his life does he already have those resources? For instance, in order to reach and maintain her desired weight the client Paula in the videotape ``Making Futures Real'' needs to be able to set limits, to have commitment, and to give priority to the future over present pleasure. Paula claims she is unable to do any of these things. But Cameron Bandler finds examples in Paula's life where she has in fact done all three. Some NLP people would have then used anchor collapsing to bring the resources into the problem context but Cameron Bandler does it simply by asking questions.
3) Change sorting: Our senses present us with masses of data much more copious than we can deal with. In order to avoid being overwhelmed, we need ways of organizing this information, of sorting through it. The particular ways in which we sort experience have a lot to do with determining what kind of person we are.
Leslie Cameron Bandler once said to us, ``When I come into a room, it's as if the people in it are brighter, and the surroundings just fade into insignificance.'' For me, it's somewhat the same. On the other hand, I once had a close friend for whom it was the opposite. If I went with her to the home of one of my friends she would immediately zero in on an art work on the wall or some interesting object in the room and start asking intelligent questions about it. And I would feel like an utter klutz, because although I had been in that room many times, I had never even really seen the object before. Where I sorted for people, she sorted for objects.
Some people sort for place, and when they meet someone new they will ask ``Where are you from?'' a question that always seems totally off-the-wall to me. Others sort for activity and will want to know ``What do you do?''
When you tell an academic something he tends to sort for what's missing or what's wrong, a trait I often find annoying. Certainly this ability for critical thinking is useful to me when I am checking something like the logic of a mathematical proof, but when I am listening to someone tell me about an idea I try to initially set aside all the things I notice which are wrong or missing (remembering them for later reference) and sort for those things that have some promise of being useful.
When the client in the videotape ``Lasting Feelings'' saw her husband talking to another woman, she sorted for the attractiveness of the woman. The more attractive the woman was, the more threatened the client felt. Part of what Cameron Bandler does with this client is to teach her to sort for her husband's response. If the husband seemed indifferent, skeptical, or bemused (as was usually the case), then jealousy was not in order. (The next step was to teach the client how to deal resourcefully with the rare exceptions when there was a real cause for jealousy.)
The way to change a client's sorting is by asking questions. In order to answer the questions, the client has to sort in a different way than usual.
4) Adjust criteria: The most obvious example of where criteria need adjustment is when the client has criteria that are impossible to fulfill. For instance, people who have problems making decisions usually have as their criterion that the decision be right. Such people have set themselves an impossible task since one can never be certain in advance that a given decision will turn out to be the right one, and it's no wonder that such people find decision making stressful.
People who habitually overeat have present need and pleasure as their criterion when choosing food. They then try to counterbalance this with various ``shoulds.'' The ``shoulds,'' however, lose out all too often, and having one's life run by ``shoulds'' is in any case no fun. People with an effective eating strategy, on the other hand, have as their criterion how they will feel after they have eaten and how the food they eat will affect their body. This gives them the sense of moving toward something positive rather than being deprived.
Often rather than changing a client's criteria it is often better to change their complex equivalences for these criteria. My NLP teachers seemed to mostly equate the criteria to their complex equivalences, but my feeling is that people represent their criteria by words, and place very high value on these words, and as their attitudes change they will redefine these words rather than alter their commitment to them. ``Love'' will be just as important to a particular person at age fifty as it was at age twelve, but in the intervening years he will have completely changed the meaning the word ``love'' has for him. (For the most part, people seem to be innately Platonists. A person will say ``I understand what love is now a lot better than I did when I was young,'' as if the concept ``love'' has some independant existence and it makes sense to search for its ``true'' meaning, which may be very different from its conventional usage.)
5) Adding a New Behavior: One needs to understand the word behavior here in the usual NLP sense as meaning both internal and external behavior, i.e. thinking and feeling as well as action. So under this heading can be included teaching the client various NLP ``strategies,'' such as the strategy for learning to spell, or for motivation, or for accepting criticism.
The way to teach someone a new behavior is to have them practice it. In NLP, the belief is that practicing a behavior in one's imagination is at least as effective, and often more so, than more overt forms of practice such as role playing. NLP refers to this sort of mental rehearsal as ``future pacing.''
It is a poor sort of skepticism which merely delights in challenging those claims which conflict with one's own belief system. --Bogus quote